JUVENILE JUSTICE BILL 2015 IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE..

We may endlessly debate on ‘lowering’ or ‘not lowering’ the age of juvenile accused in heinous crimes (here we define them as murder, rape and arson) but we all would concur to this point – that unless and until our policymakers are forced by intense public pressure, they don’t believe in doing something unorthodox – that they don’t want to disturb the status-quo.

And it takes a massive public expression of anger that ‘disturbs’ their ‘this’ attitude.

As it happened in the case of passing amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act in the Parliament to promulgate a stricter law.

Though we cannot say what the proposed amendments will achieve, something that is time (and tide) dependent, we can say it has been a logical step on a tedious journey that should have begun much earlier than December 16, 2012 when the Delhi gang rape took place. Rape and other criminal incidents against women had become social evils and horrible curses much before it in our patriarchal society.

Rape and other crimes against women are a mindset problem and we cannot expect to control them by merely passing a law.

It needs mindset change.

And that requires time and consistency in efforts.

Tougher laws like the one passed in the Rajya Sabha today or in the wake of the national outrage after the December 16 gang rape, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (or Nirbhaya Act), put into effect in April 2013, are vital reflections on how we are progressing.

Such steps, whenever they arrive, irrespective of what they can or cannot do, give a sense of satisfaction that the society has advanced one step ahead in this mindset change battle.

Because this is a tough battle to win – with loads of frustrating moments.

This very case is a burning example.

Somehow, our conscious was stirred to the level that the brutal gang rape of a paramedic student on December 16 in 2012 became precursor to a national outrage and global headlines. We can say the political attitude was not well received initially with brutal crackdown by the Delhi Police on protesters. But later on, intense public pressure and media scrutiny caused some sense to prevail and we saw the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act coming into force in just four months of the incident.

And though politicians had promised a very swift, ‘within months judgement’ (some say even two or three months), the nation accepted the judgement delivered by the lower court in September 2013 – in the 10th month after the incident.

A parallel track to this was the demand for comprehensive amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act because one of the accused, who was also the most brutal one, was a minor (17+ but not yet 18) and was sentenced to just three years in a correctional home. So while four others were sentenced to death (the main accused committed suicide in jail), the minor accused, who was most brutal in committing this crime, was just sentenced to three years and was to get his records expunged after his three years were over.

After December 16 incident in 2016, we saw spurt in rapes and other crimes against women but it was basically because the heightened sense of insecurity and the increased access to information sources led more cases to be reported. We also saw a spurt in reporting of such heinous crimes by juveniles, especially in 16-18 age-group.

So, this parallel track of demand for stricter laws for juveniles in 16-18 age-group was a legitimate one – apt for the senses prevailing in the society. And the demand never died down.

The ‘unnecessarily delayed’ Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 that was passed today showed us that again. Our political class took three years after the December 2012 incident to pass the Bill and that too came after a trigger that again generated intense sentiment mobilization and could well herald a new mass movement if the Bill was delayed further. The Nirbhaya Act was promulgated in April 2013 but then politicians failed to reach on any conclusion on the Juvenile Justice Act for the next 30 months.

The trigger this time obviously was the release of the minor rapist in the case who walked free on December 20 after completing his three years in a correctional home in Delhi. Public opinion had started galvanizing much before it with themed media campaigns.

And the political class when saw this, it had no other option but to bow to the incoming public outrage. Yes, the fear of another massive public outrage forced them to pass the Bill this time with the ‘juvenile convict release’ trigger. What else can we say about their sensitivities and priorities again given the fact the Lok Sabha had passed the Bill in May 2015 but it took another six months for the Rajya Sabha to act on it.

Passage of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 is important for this reason – that will of public prevailed over the policymaking class. What qualitative changes this amendment can bring is something that only future will tell.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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ONE YEAR OF DECEMBER 16 GANGRAPE: UNDERCURRENTS REMAIN IN REALM OF GREY!

Though it was coloured in black and white, it was not black and white. One year after the December 16 gangrape in Delhi was a point to stop and look back on what all has changed.

Have there been changes? And when we talk about ‘changes’, what do we mean by ‘change’?

It was so brutal and animal that it stirred not India only, but pulled the attention of the global community.

The two weeks of protests that followed the December 16 horror slapped the Indian psyche, laid it threadbare, thrashed the Indian administration, made the world worried about women safety in India (their women as well as the Indian women) and thus gave India the tag of the rape capital of the world.

And if we see the developments leading to the ‘desired’ ‘changes’ in this context, we can say nothing ‘much’ has moved.

On paper, a stronger anti-rape law was put in place. But rape cases reported have doubled since the December 16 incident, if we talk of Delhi, the national Capital of India. True, it may be that the increased attention and a tougher anti-rape law have led to the higher reporting of such cases. But it also tells us about the uncomfortable truth about us, the central reason behind crime against women, a truth that we all know but do want to realize to work on.

The truth behind increased reporting of such cases tells us how deep the murk is. If an anti-rape law can result in over two-fold increase in reporting of the rape cases from Delhi alone, imagine the horror at the pan-India level where most of the cases are still not reported!

It is good more cases are being reported. It is bad the accompanying legal machinery is still not responding to it in a satisfactory way. Some special courts were made to handle rape cases only, six in Delhi, the Chief Justice of India had inaugurated. All are trailing with unimpressive outcomes.

Again, that is for Delhi only. Think of the problem at the pan-India level and link it with the flood of rape cases being reported from across the country and you would feel ‘nothing’ has changed.

It cannot, until the mindset changes. It cannot, until the male-dominated Indian psyche remains skewed.

We are a country of the men who still kill their five minor daughters in cold blood, shooting them in the head, to get rid of them, as happened last week in the Gaya district in Bihar where the father was the killer.

We are a country of the men who kill millions of girls even before they see the world. Last year, the Indian government said the country had nearly 3 million girls less (‘missing’) in 2011 (75.84 million) than their count in 2001 (78.83 million). In a country, facing the acute crisis of a skewed sex ratio, female foeticide and female infanticide continue shamelessly.

We are a country of the men who still brand women as witches to exploit them, to settle scores with them. We are a country of the men who still marry their daughters in an age when they can’t realize what marriage is. UNICEF statistics say 18 per cent of the Indian girls are married by the age of 15 and the share gets disturbingly higher with 47 per cent of the girls getting married by the age of 18. The October 2013 report published in the Times of India puts the number of child brides in India at 24 million out of the global count of 60 million.

We are a country of the men who still treat women as secondary, lesser counterparts professionally as well as socially. Dowry is social menace deeply rooted. Dowry murders still happen. Girls form the larger chunk of ‘forced’ illiterates and dropouts. Glass Ceiling is common.

How can there be a change of gravity until this borrowed mentality of male domination changes, a borrowed mentality anointed for ages?

One year after, and it was to be coloured in black and white, all across. But, the undercurrents remain in the realm of grey!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

DELHI GANGRAPE: THE VERDICT AND THE CLOSURE?

..for sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.. Barack Obama, September 10, 2013 (from his Syria speech) (India dateline – September 11)

I do not have any intention to use these words from yet another highly emphatic Barack Obama speech delivered the Barack Obama way, unambiguous and to the point, but the words somewhere resonated in my thinking while shuffling through the news channels on TV, sifting for the news coverage on the likely announcing of the quantum of sentence in the December 16, 2013 Delhi gangrape case.

In the aftermath of the huge, unprecedented public outrage on the December 16 gangrape, India did pass a tougher legislation but nothing much seems to have changed.

What on paper was done was more than resolutions and statements of condemnation if we go by the printed words, of legislations, of parliamentary discussions, of political promised made in the Parliament, but these measures are simply not enough the unabated wave of crime against women proves.

Closure, the sense of it, the debates around it, if the family of the brave girl is going to get it, if those of the masses who felt at one with the family’s pain are going to get it – the majority is saying in the one voice that only the death sentence to the four accused found guilty of all the charges by a Delhi Fast-track Court can bring closure. The demand was only aggravated after the leniency shown by the System in the case of the juvenile accused, which the reports said, was the most brutal one.

Yes, the family may get its closure the way it is demanding when the quantum of sentence announced on Friday goes its way.

But how can there be any closure that the humanity needs in case of such crime incidents when the root-cause continues. It is in the mindset.

Statistically, crimes against women including rape and murder have increased consistently over the years. Even if we single out Delhi and that too, after the December 16 horror last year, when there has been apparently heightened sense of responsibility from almost every quarter, we come across a frightening set of data that says the first eight months of 2013 have broken the record of 10 years with 1036 rape cases.

It is in the mindset and until that is checked and controlled, there cannot be any closure.

It is not that something so socially demoralizing has happened post the December 16 gangrape that the country (and Delhi) are witnessing higher number of rape cases. It tells us the dark side of humanity was even darker and with increased attention to the crimes against women, some light has started falling on that.

The increased number of reported cases tells us people are coming ahead now to confront the heinous crime shedding the inhibitions of the so-called and planted social stigmas. It also tells us how the governance has been an utter failure that it could not stem the rot even in Delhi, the national Capital of India.

In India, the general perception (and the right perception) that ‘resolutions and statements of condemnation have, simply, never been enough’ is a harsh reality.

And even if that is addressed somehow, it is not going to change anything until the mindset is changed.

We can blame the System, we can blame the politicians, we can blame the governance, but we also need to blame us, the society, vehemently for this.

The rapists are hidden among us only inhabiting the deep-rooted darkness of a criminal mindset.

The light has to be strong enough to weed out this darkness.

Till then, there cannot be any closure in such cases.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

YET ANOTHER GANGRAPE, SENTIMENTS BOIL, BUT SUSHIL KUMAR SHINDE AND NEERAJ KUMAR SHIRK THE RESPONSIBILITY, YET AGAIN!

AND THEY ARE SYMPTOMATIC OF THE INSENSITIVE POLITICAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE MACHINERY

People had to take to the streets again. The public sphere is evolving spontaneously. People are reacting spontaneously against atrocities, again and again, post the anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare.

A 5-year old minor was raped and brutalized in Delhi, again. While protests were raging, more cases of rape were reported. Statistics say rape is the fastest growing crime in India.

True, it’s a mindset problem. But, than cannot absolve the police and government of their own follies, of not being honest with their responsibility, of not being sincere with their commitment, of not being human enough to understand the pain of the fellow human who is being victimized.

A gangrape last year, on December 16, that took life of a 23-year old girl, named Nirbhaya by us, who fought with the rapists and struggled with death for many days, stirred the humanity. Her fight, her plight, crime against Indian women and the larger issue of women rights in India made the whole world participate in the process of discussion.

But that was for the humanity, not for the Indian politicians it seems. Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde, responsible for internal security of the country and directly overseeing the administration of the Delhi Police, and the administrative machinery like the Delhi Police run by the politicians like Shinde, compel us to think so, again and again.

Criticised for comparing young protesters with Maoists in the aftermath of the December Delhi 2012 gangrape, the home minister of India let his lieutenant at the helms of the Delhi Police affairs have a free run despite glaring lapses by the Delhi Police during and after the crime was perpetrated.

A police security lapse let the bus ply on the road when it had previously robbed someone on the same stretch of the road on the same day, in the same time-band. A police functionality lapse delayed the access to the speedy treatment to the victim. A police functionality lapse denied the victim the best possible treatment that was her right. These two lapses coupled with Union and Delhi governments’ delayed decision-making in shifting the victim to a renowned hospital later proved fatal for her.

Shinde was as much responsible for it as was Mr. Neeraj Kumar. But both remained unaffected and unmoved as if nothing had happened when both needed to take moral and functional responsibilities for the lapses. They both needed to have stepped down. Okay, proposing this might sound unusual in the Indian political and bureaucratic set-up of the day but is this not the way the healthy and progressive democracies are supposed to function?

What Shinde and Neeraj Kumar had done during the December 2012 gangrape and protests, they are doing it again.

Administration is slapping protesters, is shutting Delhi Metro stations and is imposing Section 144 like it had one in December 2012. Neeraj Kumar, who had compared human lives as collateral damage then, is lauding his police force, a police force that tries to discourage the complainants, a police force that slaps innocent protesters, a police force that frames innocent youngsters for murder, a police force that offers bribe to the victim to suppress the issue even if his daughter is raped and mortally wounded.

Even after all this, Mr. Kumar doesn’t bother to face the nation and when he does so, after four days of the incident, he speaks in his ‘human lives as collateral damage’ style saying it is impossible to prevent all the rape cases.

And Mr. Neeraj Kumar cannot say and do all this without approval of his boss, Mr. Shinde.

And Mr. Shinde cannot allow all this to happen without approval of his bosses, the power-centre duo of the United Progressive Alliance government.

And it tells us India is not a healthy democracy because it is us who have elected the likes of Shinde to run the System made for us. We are failing again and again in electing our representatives.

But again, it is an increasing strength from among us that is realizing this and is raising voices to warn the political and administrative system. Increasing number of spontaneous protests on issues of social concerns is a living example to it.

If the Indian democracy is still progressive, it is due to the people who are accessing and processing information and are propagating it independently for those who cannot (their living conditions) or who do not (comfortably ignorant) understand the relevance of being and act informed.

Any democracy needs to perform the tasks that will make it a just and fair society. But an overpopulated country, burdened with poverty, illiteracy and medieval social thinking prevalent in its larger swathes, that India is, finds it in a deadlock with an inept and corrupt political and bureaucratic class lording over it; overloading over it.

True, society is to share the blame. Rape and other crimes against women need the mindset change to address the issue. But we are a sick society of millions. No one can say how and when the change would come. And at the same time, we cannot allow them to happen shielding behind statements like ‘it is humanely impossible to prevent rape cases where relatives, neighbours or friends are involved’ as Neeraj Kumar said or statements like ‘such incidents are reported from other parts of country also’ as Shinde said.

These logics do stand their ground. No one is questioning that. But what about the action in the aftermath; an action (and an action needed every time) that sets a precedent, that works as a deterrent, not just for the criminals but also for the erring officials and the politicians of the administration and the political system, an action (every time) that remains to be seen.

There were big talks after the massive protests against the December 2012 Delhi gangrape promising speedy justice setting deadlines like one month or two months. But it is over five months now and the final verdict is nowhere in sight. No one is even talking about it now.

A rule of law and order based on democratic values becomes the only hope in such a dark underbelly of human delinquency.

But what if the people tasked to handle the law and order machinery on democratic values start using it to subvert the democratic values?

That is exactly what is happening in India. What else can we say and should we say?

We are left with nothing else but this to say when the governments don’t find the incidents like the December 2012 Delhi gangrape or now the Gudiya gangrape or the police cover-up attempts in such cases or the subsequent multifold rise in the rape cases in the same city even after the big curative promises were made reasons enough to take curative steps.

Mr. Manmohan Singh, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Mr. Rahul Gandhi (this time too, you are yet to speak on it), Mr. Sushil Kumar Shinde and Mr. Neeraj Kumar – if your governance and you administration cannot stop the rape, then who will?

See! We elect them to help us. WHY?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/